John Howell

  • John Jesurun

    John Jesurun is the latest ambitious artist to take on the challenge of visual theater, and, potentially, one of the most original of the new voices. The requisite “art” background comes from a Yale M.F.A. in sculpture; Jesurun also has television experience (he was assistant to the producer on The Dick Cavett Show), and a strong interest in rock ’n’ roll makes him typical of a young media-scavenging generation. Last year, his first theater work appeared in the form of a continuing live serial. Chang in a Void Moon combined cinema-derived techniques (jump cuts, short scenes, a continued-next-week

  • Terry Allen

    For nearly 15 years Terry Allen has produced a smorgasbord of artworks: drawings, sculpture, plays, prints, books, videotapes, and music. So this exhibition of quirky constructions came as no surprise. What was new for Allen was the subject matter: the lingering influence of Vietnam. Reportedly inspired by a friend’s tales and postwar experiences—the show was titled “Youth in Asia”—Allen tackled the difficult topic with his usual head-on Texas brio, necessarily laced with generous dollops of deep-seated bitterness. His objects convey the emotional intensity of classic Viet-vet anger, despair,

  • Mabou Mines, “Imagination Dead Imagine”

    The Mabou Mines theater company has been applying its increasingly complex high-tech sensibility to Samuel Beckett’s increasingly minimalist “dramaticules” since the mid ’60s; in recent years the group has staged the author’s brief prose pieces as well, somehow finding original, striking theatrical conceits that are simultaneously audaciously innovative and faithful to Beckett’s meticulous texts. The latest such production is Imagination Dead Imagine, one of those Latinate, liturgical fragments through which Beckett now transmits his relentless vision of life as an unending secular spell in an

  • Creation Company

    The ’80s haven’t been a good decade so far for collaborative performance groups; today’s collective-oriented energy seems to have ended up in art rock bands. The Creation Company, founded in 1977 to produce performance/theater works that explore a crossover area between visual arts, video and film, music, dance, and poetry, is one of the few such groups active. Like its ’60s and ’70s inspirations, Creation operates as an ensemble in which permanent members (Matthew Maguire, Susan Mosakowski, and Vito Ricci) are joined by a flexible group of collaborators; the group’s most recent effort, The

  • Ping Chong, “A Race”

    Since the early ’70s Ping Chong has labored at a performance art/theater form built on the principle of bricolage. The term can even be said to describe Chong’s method homophonically: individual “bricks” of fragmented found texts, multimedia visuals, dancelike movement, and music are fitted together in a tightly mortared, sensory, theatrical collage. In the past, Chong’s version of this now ubiquitous performance approach featured striking sets and visuals, ravishing lighting, precisely stylized choreography, and an extremely flat, undynamic dramatic sense, mostly due to an overdose of chopped-up

  • “Artists Call”—Performance

    As part of the “Artists Call against U.S. Intervention in Central America” program, a nationwide political-action series of exhibitions, panels, video, film, and such, four New York spaces (Danspace, Franklin Furnace, P.S. 122, and Taller Latinoamericano) sponsored eight evenings of performance works as benefits. At the two programs I attended the audiences were unexpectedly large and enthusiastic, and an obvious feeling that these were unusual events ran through both the performances and the audience’s reactions. According to the sponsors, this was also true of the other evenings.

    The conjunction

  • Rachel Rosenthal, “Traps”

    The noted California performance artist Rachel Rosenthal made her first New York appearance here, and her multimedia solo Traps not only proved a compelling performance work in itself, whether of Californian or any other stripe, but outlined a model for how the genre can adapt itself to a more demanding performance context. Rosenthal added some skillful, sophisticated theatrical devices and techniques to performance’s basically antitheatrical foundations (authenticity, directness, a kind of homemade quality) to create more of a “show,” an entertainment in the largest sense of that word. Further,

  • Robert Whitman and Sylvia Palacios

    This double bill by a husband-and-wife performance duo featured separate performances that were distinctively different, but that shared a set of assumptions not often seen on today’s performance circuit. Generally, both Eclipse and Irregulars present imagistic, surrealistic events organized around complexes of visual and aural effects. These playlets align themselves squarely with a party line of esthetic and philosophical tenets from ’60s performance (rather than with the more audience-aware, explicitly social, and altogether “hotter” ’80s version). While interesting in this out-of-synch way,

  • “The Way Of How”

    Like the flat-footed takeoff on Zen in its title, The Way of How flirts with meaning but settles for effects. Created in improvisational rehearsals by a collaborative group method, this collage of aural and visual routines consists of a series of discrete performance bits strung out like beads on a string; several of the units are intriguing in themselves, but The Way lacks a strong point of view and/or a structure that would illuminate the “why” behind its collective “how.” Subtitled “a reverie,” the piece intermittently succeeds in conjuring up various vague atmospheres, drifting moods evoked

  • Johanna Went

    Johanna Went hit New York City touted as a “rock ’n’ roll performance artist” from the Los Angeles club and performance scene, a New Wave witch/goddess whose gross, weird, and cathartic rituals have mesmerized Californian crossover audiences for the last four years. But her appearance at this, the current hot spot of bizarre spectacle, was completely undone by a raucous, good-naturedly perverse, knowledgeable crowd which quickly unmasked Went’s “frenzies” as the superficial displays they are. Every “provocation,” every gesture toward “transcendent disgust,” every “outrage” was countered and


    ‘RETRO” IS EVERYWHERE, FROM last season’s painting retrospectives (particularly of the painting of the ’60s, a time when performance became a major part of the art world) to pop culture’s endless “remake” mentality as manifested in Hollywood sequels, theatrical restagings, and television spinoffs and repeats. Keeping • performance in line with retro, a growing number of performance revivals of all types have been staged during the last couple of years, ranging from historical reconstructions of Judson Dance Theater shows, Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus dances, and ’60s happenings and fluxus events

  • Spalding Gray; David Van Tieghem

    Improvisation in performance used to represent a radical stance: it implied risk-taking, democracy, noncompetitiveness, and a “natural” attitude. Now it’s become common rhetoric, just another tool with its uses. Two performances sponsored by the arts group Creative Time, Inc., at typically unusual venues, showed some of the pitfalls this matter-of-fact approach to improvisation can lead to.

    The “Art in the Anchorage” events took place in one of the Brooklyn Bridge “anchorages,” the cathedral Iike stone halls in which the Bridge’s cables are moored. Spalding Gray proposed to interview several